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Religion vs. Relationship

• Cedrick Baker

History shows the church has promoted violence in various forms, and many have turned away from the faith as a result. This sermon examines this issue and addresses the alternative that Jesus brings and what the church should offer the world.

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Many people have problems with the church and with God because they have come to the conclusion that religion is dangerous and inherently violent. In this sermon, Cedrick Baker seeks to address why so many have come to this conclusion, explains how Jesus offers an alternative point of view and provides some practical direction.

To understand the nature of the problem, it is important to clearly define religion. Cedrick defines religion as a human construction that tries to get us to God. While the Christian religion has produced many good things, Christianity has been a part of terrible, heinous, brutal acts. This violence done in the name of religion is the root of the problem.

These brutal acts include war and bloodshed, but also injustice and wrongdoing; things like clergy sexual abuse, institutionalized violence, and racism. People have claimed to do these things under divine authority. We must admit that the universal church is guilty of violence throughout history!

The Bible is clear on how we, the church, should act when it comes to violence. A few Scriptures that make this point are:

  • Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. -Proverbs 31:8-9
  • Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. -Isaiah 1:17
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves… – Philippians 2:3
  • Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. -1 Peter 3:9

Our job is to love at all times because Jesus is the antithesis of all of the violence, hatred and intolerance in the world. Jesus came to inaugurate a way to be in relationship with us so that we might be transformed. When we witness or hear of violence in the name of God, we are seeing the results of religion and not a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion will lead to violence, whereas relationship will move us away from it. Our personal relationship with God is designed to transform us into his image so that we can display the kingdom that Jesus initially inaugurated.

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Topics: Non-Violence, Power

Sermon Series: Unraveling Truth

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
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The MuseCast: March 28

Focus Scripture:

  • 1 John 4:10

    This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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4 thoughts on “Religion vs. Relationship

  1. Jan says:

    What an inspiring sermon series this has proven to be! Thank you to all the pastors and speakers, as well as the team that puts all the parts together into a beautiful whole — compiling graphics from listener feedback, for example, and drawing everyone in through participation.

    Appreciated the “Religion vs. Relationship” call to look unflinchingly at the downside behavior of church history. If we sit awhile in that discomfort we’ll better understand all who cringe at the very idea of organized religion. And the exercise in loving those difficult for us to love prepares us to communicate with compassion when we encounter those who are put off by the abstraction of faith but might be moved toward God indirectly by our kindheartedness.

    Not that I wouldn’t sometimes rather just discern the flaws beneath institutional covers and kvetch, but that’s not the love that living in God’s reign requires. Only by progress in following that divine requirement to love, and staying the course with my own perfectly imperfect humanity, do I find inner peace that translates to outward harmony.

    The sermon series encourages us as creatures to embrace the fullness of relationship with our Creator God — to follow the lordship of Jesus who understands, having been fully human, yet transcends, also being fully divine to grant us the Holy Spirit’s supernatural help here on earth. Hallelujah! And a little dance of praise to God.

  2. Jerry says:

    Thank you, Jan!

    Adding to a thought from Dan Kent:

    Just maybe the common ethical rule, [In everything do to others as you would have them do to you], is of much greater value than ALL the religiously motivated apologetics, a carnival of charlatans, charismatic characters with special knowledge, versus Jesus the ONLY one who talks and walks with true authority.

    Rom 2:14–15 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

    In the final analysis, talk is cheap delivery is everything!

  3. Jan says:

    Amen, Jerry, and thanks back to you!

  4. Graeme says:

    There’s a great video series put out by the Centre for Public Christanity on the issues touched on by Cedric – “For the Love of God – How the church is BETTER + WORSE than you ever imagined”. Worth checking out on:

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